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Dio's first concept album. Being that this was released in 1999 that fact in itself is surprising enough since Dio has always been fascinated with epic tales of "good vs evil" and medieval, mythical times. Even though they may seem like it Dio's first three albums ("Holy Diver", "The Last In Line", "Sacred Heart") were not truly concept albums. They seem as such because of the similar "dragons, witches, sages, demons, ancient times" themes but, upon closer inspection they are really motivational and cautionary songs delivered with imaginary settings. Also, each of those albums had it's share of straight forward songs that didn't use ambiguous lyrics or cryptic messages.
Now, "Magica", on the other hand is indeed a "soundtrack" to the "Magica" story, one which Dio recites on the final track. More on that later. Though there's some computerized vocal interludes sprinkled thoughout the flow of the album is not hampered by dialogue between the cuts (the full story is recited at the end). The lyrics do relate to the story without making them overly specific.
First let me mention the cut "Fever Dreams". Craig Goldy has come up with one of the best guitar riffs ever (not hyperbole- it's awesome) heard for this cut (so good the mighty fine himself Doug Aldrich couldn't do it on the Killing The Dragon Tour a few years later!). This track smokes with a crisp Dio vocal and flawless rhythm beneath that Goldy riff. Masterpiece. I caught myself bobbin' my head and stomping my foot on this one. Here we are introduced to the hero of the story Eriel, who has his own song in his name. On "Fever Dreams" Eriel is being haunted in his dreams by the villain of the tale, Shadowcast. Honestly, I don't really care. The "concept" is just a cool bonus for when you want to concentrate on it. Another reviewer went into depth on the storyline contained in each song. Definitely worth reading. That said, I won't be doing that here.
The aforementioned song, Eriel, owes a debt to "Holy Diver" (which owes a debt to the bassline of "Heaven & Hell", only slightly slowed down). This piece definitely resembles soundtrack music to a theatrical event. There's a string arrangement and vocal section. Another standout is "As Long As It's Not About Love", which opens with acoustic guitar and builds with bluesy lyrics with two startling solos from Goldy. This track has become a favorite with longtime Dio fans.
Even though the "story" is told within the songs the album closes with Uncle Dio reading you a story as if puffing a pipe by a fireplace. 18 minutes worth. THIS is how to do a concept album. No lengthy interludes between the cuts ruining the flow of the album. You have a choice you can just listen to a headbanging album and skip the last track or you can put on headphones and get lost in the story with one monster of a soundtrack. Essential addition to the Dio canon.